Funders for Lesbian and Gay Issues

Celebrating 36 years of mobilizing
        philanthropic resources for the LGBTQ community.
1982 – 2018

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Key Events and Accomplishments


At the annual conference of the National Network of Grantmakers (NNG), an assortment of individuals working in philanthropy meets to discuss how the field can better support lesbian and gay issues. The group becomes an official part of NNG and adopts the name the Working Group on Funding Lesbian and Gay Issues.


At the NNG annual conference, the Working Group crafts a document outlining its goals: to increase the visibility of lesbian and gay issues within philanthropy, to research funding patterns and to provide technical assistance to lesbian and gay organizations.

The Working Group becomes an affinity group of the Council on Foundations.


In Denver, Colorado, the Working Group holds it first affinity group session at the Council on Foundation’s annual gathering.

The Ms. Foundation awards the Working Group its first grant to research philanthropic support for lesbian issues. The following year, the Working Group publishes the findings and releases a report to approximately 5,000 funders and nonprofit organizations.

At the annual NNG conference, the Working Group organizes a panel session on HIV/AIDS, marking the first time AIDS is addressed at a national philanthropic gathering.


Individual members of the Working Group begin meeting in major U.S. cities—Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC—to provide support and advocacy to grantmakers interested in supporting lesbian and gay issues.

The Working Group gradually expands its programmatic efforts, offering meetings and programs at the annual meetings of NNG and the Council of Foundations. However, these gatherings typically take place separate from the regular conference programs.

Through the New York Regional Association of Grantmakers, the Working Group organizes the first Regional Association of Grantmakers program on lesbian and gay issues.


The Working Group hires Nancy Cunningham as a part-time consultant to staff the growing organization. In the years that follow, Cunningham’s position expands to full time, and she serves as its founding executive director until 2005.

The Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice offers office space to the Working Group in its New York City headquarters and agrees to serve as its fiscal sponsor. Concurrently, the Working Group adopts its first budget—roughly $30,000—and secures its first grants; early foundation support comes from sources such as Astraea, the Funding Exchange, and the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.


The Working Group publishes the first directory of LGBTQ grantmakers to assist LGBTQ organizations in identifying sources of funding; that year, the directory includes 62 funders. Today the online directory includes more than 300 foundations supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities.

To leverage more philanthropic resources for identity-based issues, the Working Group joins with various like-minded affinity groups to begin strategizing on how to collectively engender support from philanthropy for multiple communities. This group eventually becomes the Joint Affinity Groups.

The Working Group puts together the first workshop session on lesbian and gay issues at the annual Council on Foundations conference.

The Working Group—under the fiscal sponsorship of the Tides Foundation—launches the National Lesbian and Gay Community Funding Partnership, an initiative that provides grants to community foundations to establish funds supportive of LGBTQ issues. In its lifetime, the partnership awards grants of up to $100,000 to 40 community foundations around the country. Further, at least 13 national funders contribute more than $6 million to the Partnership, matched, to date, by more than $5 million in local funds.


The Working Group membership—which includes philanthropic institutions and its staff and board members—has grown steadily to 130 members.

The Working Group publishes and broadly distributes Reaching Out: A Grantmakers Guide to Lesbian and Gay Issues. In conjunction, it organizes an annual gathering for lesbian and gay community foundations and funds.

The MacArthur Foundation awards its first lesbian and gay grant—not primarily focused on HIV/AIDS—to the Working Group—the largest foundation to publicly award a grant to an organization working on lesbian and gay issues.


The Working Group and the National Partnership formally merge as Funders for LGBTQ Issues-- incorporating as a 501(c) (3), establishing bylaws and forming a national board of directors

The Ford Foundation awards Funders for LGBTQ Issues its first general operating grant. Two years later, the Ford Foundation awards Funders for LGBTQ Issues a $500,000 2-year grant to support its community funding partnership.


Funders for LGBTQ Issues begins hosting regular teleconferences on LGBTQ issues relevant to grantmakers.


Funders for LGBTQ Issues launches an online directory of LGBQT grantmakers that allows nonprofits to easily search and identify various types of LGBTQ funders, and expands its online directory of LGBTQ organizations.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues publishes Starting an LGBT Community Foundation and Aging in Equity: LGBT Elders in America. Issue-based publications have become a central offering of the organization.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues helps plan the annual Family Foundation conference in New York City, where it later hosts workshops on diversity and inclusiveness, and international grantmaking.


After 12 years of leadership, Nancy Cunningham departs Funders for LGBTQ Issues. Karen Zelermyer, former deputy director of the Astraea Lesbian Fundation for Justice and a former board member of Funders for LGBTQ Issues, assumes charge of the organization.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues begins releasing annual research reports on LGBTQ grantmaking by U.S. foundations. Each year, it assesses how much foundations provide to LGBTQ organizations and projects, along with the types of strategies, populations, and issues they support—among other variables. That year, it releases two reports, assessing grantmaking in calendar years 2002 and 2003.

Out for Change: Racial and Economic Justice Issues in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Communities is published in September.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues hosts numerous workshops and briefings at various gatherings around the country, including the Council on Foundations annual conference, the National Network of Grantmakers annual meeting, the Southeastern Council on Foundations annual meeting, and Creating Change, the annual conference of The Task Force.


In an effort to ensure that the many successes that our movements have achieved over the past three decades are equitably shared among our various communities, Funders for LGBTQ Issues revises its mission to address the racial, economic, and gender barriers that persist in LGBTQ communities—and in philanthropy. Its new mission is to seek equality and rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals and communities by mobilizing philanthropic resources that advance racial, economic and gender justice.

Two staff members join Funders for LGBTQ Issues to expand its programming, strategic communications, and research and evaluation activities. Robert Espinoza, director of research and communications, and Luz Guerra, program director.


In February, as a precursor to the Joint Affinity Groups Unity Summit in Los Angeles, Funders for LGBTQ Issues convenes national LGBTQ grantmakers for the first time in history. At the one-day gathering attended by 60 LGBTQ philanthropic leaders, FLGI announces its new mission and its new programs: Common Vision and the LGBTQ Racial Equity Campaign.

In March—in a historic first—Funders for LGBTQ Issues brings together grantmakers from around the world to discuss the state of LGBTI grantmaking in the Global South and East. The meeting takes place in Amsterdam and gathers forty representatives from 20 funding institutions worldwide.

Funders for LGBTQ Issues (FLGI) presents a briefing on global LGBTI funding and grantee organizations—previewing a first-ever report on the subject—at the Open Society Institute’s New York headquarters. Almost 60 grantmakers and international policy and program specialists from around the city attend the historic conversation.

Over the summer, diverse grantmakers from across New England and the Midwest gather in their respective regions to begin in-depth conversations about a Common Vision for improving equity and building healthy communities in their respective regions. Fourteen national philanthropic partners, representing various issues and identities, sign on as national partners to oversee the effort. The two-year program prepares to launch in March 2008.

In August, Funders for Lesbian and Gay releases “A Global Gaze: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Grantmaking in the Global South and East” (PDF) — the first-ever study analyzing LGBTI grantmaking and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in those regions. Among its findings, the study finds that 40 grantmakers awarded nearly $10.5 million to groups working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues in the Global South and East.

As part of its Racial Equity Campaign, Funders for LGBTQ Issues awards nearly $1 million to eight public and community foundations around the country to strengthen organizations led by and for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people of color. Once matched by the community foundations, 1:1, nearly $2 million will have been invested in LGBTQ communities of color—a big step towards the $15 million that the campaign aims to see contributed to these communities by 2010.

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